HACKNEY'S Revenues and Benefits Service is flying high after scooping two national awards within a week.
The team won the Demanding the Best category at the CIPFA Public Servants of the Year awards, held at the Marriott Hotel, in London's Grosvenor Square on 16 October.
On 11 October the Benefits Service also won the Most Improved Team of the Year category at the IRRV Awards, held at the Hilton Brighton Metropole.
Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, said: "I am delighted that residents are receiving such a good and improved service, which is getting better all the time due to strong leadership from managers and a relentless drive to raise performance."
According to the latest Audit Commission figures, Hackney and the City of London jointly hold the top spot for being the fastest Councils to process and pay benefits applications in inner London.
The procedure for new claims involves residents completing a form and meeting with an officer to go through the details - checks are made to ensure all necessary information has been supplied and, if not, requested from the resident, before the application can be fully processed on the system. Today, this takes 20 days in Hackney, much faster than a government target of under 30 days.
The Council's Revenues and Benefits service has been transformed since a change of management in 2001, receiving Charter Mark status three years ago, and also hosting a visit last November by James Plaskitt MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Work and Pensions.
The service has also introduced a number of new ways of working, including: Online council tax payments as well as an automated telephone payment facility providing the same function for those without access to the internet, which has collected more than £2.4million.
Online account management, enabling residents to view their council tax and business account balances and resolve queries themselves. Enabling front-line officer proficiency in customer care skills, including training in sign language.
A high-profile publicity campaign also increased the number of Direct Debit taxpayers from 33 per cent to 40 per cent, a feat also commended last week by Bacs Payment Schemes Limited at the IRRV awards, while a recruitment fair held last year to recruit local people to the service resulted in 20 permanent appointments.